“Such things”. Hmph. I’ll be the first to stick my nose up at Red 40 and Monosodium Glutamate…but sometimes, you just gotta take that stick outa your butt. Like when you’re baking Southern anything. Especially any recipe originating from the 1950s. You know…the era where all the good stuff came from. Like Jell-o molds. Mother Fudging Jell-o molds. Or Red Velvet cake Or Green Bean Casserole.
Or Strawberry Cake.
Strawberry and cake had always meant vanilla cake with strawberries on top. Or vanilla cake with strawberry Jell-o poured over-top. Never as satisfying as a strawberry-flavored cake. Just like vanilla cake with orange marmalade would never satisfy the soul like an Orange Blossom. Never.
And then, I found the Jell-o Strawberry cake. The South had come through-gastronomically speaking, anyway-again. The strawberry cake’s origins are unclear. After a bit of research, I found that it was born sometime after World War II, when Jell-o was the hot new thing every housewife should put in everything they cooked. I suppose it was only a matter of time and ingenuity that the strawberry cake would come into being. Strawberries themselves being very juicy are not a convenient way to add strawberry flavor to a cake. With Jell-o, you just add that powdery goodness right to the dry mix, and BOOM. Pink non-gelatinous deliciousness.
There are some recipes from those who daren’t soil themselves with “such things,” which I’m sure are delicious. But c’mon. It’s like comparing frozen tater tots to oven fries. Or a McDonald’s hamburger to one from a fancy-pants bistro. Not the same.
You can complete the recipe with canned frosting…but a true Southerner makes her own.
And because I am both a person who daren’t soil herself with “such things” and a true Southerner, the only thing I kept from the original recipe was the Jell-o.
Oh the complicity.
¾ cup Self-raising flour
½ cup + 2 tablespoons Cake flour (White Lily is best, but any cake flour will do)
1 cup Sugar
½ package Strawberry Jell-o (about 1 ½ tablespoons)
½ cup Butter, at room temperature (I used Organic Valley Pasture-Raised)
½ cup Whole milk (at room temp)
2 eggs (at room temp)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. Cream cheese (room temp)
½ cup Butter (room temp)
8 oz. (that would be ½ a box) of powdered sugar
Pinch of Salt
2 teaspoons Orange juice (from an orange)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
White Chocolate Orange Crème
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
¼ cup Sugar
1 cup Milk
1 oz. White Chocolate, chopped (I used the orange-flavored kind…you know…the one that’s shaped like an orange? Three cheers for fun-shaped food!)
1 tablespoon Butter
½ teaspoon Orange zest
- Preheat oven to 350
- Line a cupcake tin with awesome cupcake liners
- Combine flours, sugar, gelatin and butter in a mixer and beat until the butter is incorporated—should look like lentils
- Add eggs, milk and vanilla and beat until batter is smooth
- Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop, scoop two scoops (hehe…scoop-scoop-scoop) into each cup and bake about 20 minutes (until springy BUT NOT BROWN)
- While cupcakes are cooling, combine butter and cream cheese in mixer and beat until combined.
- Add vanilla, salt and orange juice, and beat until incorporated
- Add sugar gradually and beat until smooth (you can add more or less than ½ the box…add enough that you think it tastes good)
- Refrigerate until ready to frost
- For the crème, scald the milk in a saucepan (i.e. bring just to a boil)
- As the milk is heat, whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks and sugar until slightly pale (don’t worry about the pale factor…the objective is to just incorporate it so there are no lumps)
- Temper (i.e. add slowly) the milk and yolk mixture.
- Return to medium heat and cook-stirring constantly-until thickened (about 2 minutes)
- Remove from heat and add white chocolate, zest and butter—stir until fully incorporated—chill
- Using a star tip, remove the centers of the cupcakes
- Using a round tip (or the same star…whatever tickles your fancy) pipe the crème into each cupcake
- Using another star tip (or whatever) pipe on the frosting in a decorative fashion, making sure to gauge the amount of frosting so that each cupcake gets an equal portion
- Eat it like so:
- Separate the top from the bottom
- Flip the top, so that the frosting is facing the bottom
- Make a cupcake sammich
- Eat the cupcake sammich